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We lament the lack of civic sense and (middle-class) values in this City, and conveniently blame the ‘locals’ and ‘local culture’. Many ‘new’ Gurgaonites believe that the values they grew up on, and with, as a part of middle-class families, are what differentiates them from the ‘nouveau riche’ locals. How true is that? Forget living by those values, do they even want to remember them? And what values are they teaching their children?
They actually ought to lament the loss of their own middle-class values. They were supposed to be, promised to be, different when they went ‘up’ in life – different from the ‘normal’ upper and rich. They have failed in this – although none would admit to it. They would rather only point out the lack of certain values in the ‘locals’/’others’, ignoring the many that they do not now possess or display. It is a world of convenience after all. In fact they do not even realize that they are being looked at in much the same way that they looked at the upper and rich in their time. Pity…with solid education and values, and added experience, skills, finance and privilege over the years, they could have set great examples. Instead, they have gone the other’s way. And the real concern is that their children could turn out even ‘worse’ – than themselves, and their bête noirs
There is only a small ‘middle-class’ in this City. There are mainly extremes – of corporate rich, business rich, landed rich and real estate-affiliated rich; and, on the other side are the village poor, construction and industrial labour poor, and poor ‘helps’. Middle-class values come from family, the teachers and the education system, and the examples set by leaders. It therefore should not be a surprise that there is little of a middle-class mindset left – especially in this City. Even the well-educated, now well-to-do, do not have time for their ‘old’ middle class values – that are seen as impractical and defeatist. They consider themselves upper and rich now, and have very different values - similar to the upper and rich they so couldn’t (under)stand in their youth. The schools today are elitist, though they have little class. Most private schools (and therefore unfortunately teachers) are influenced by only commerce now. And the less said of most leaders the better. What chance therefore does any Millennium kid have, to imbibe some solid values of old? Maybe if there is grandpa and grandma residing with them? Difficult. The grandparents probably are treated a shade better than ‘help’ in many households - which also means that their advice is not really welcome. In fact chances are that the kid(s) would like to teach them a thing or two, encouraged by new-age moms and pops.
What are the tell-tales of our having moved away from the middle-class-path? It is our consumption of the latest only, our flaunting of money – including for bribes, our loud voices – especially in public, our king-sized egos and our always wanting special privileges, our easy aggression and quick to anger on being denied anything (or challaned for wrong parking by a policeman)…and of course our children – pampered, waiting to go abroad for studies (when the world and NRIs are flocking here), cocooned indoors and totally dependent on ‘helps’. We believe we can buy all the happiness, for our family and ourselves. Money (gifts) can supposedly replace our absence too – as absentee parents. Bribery is being taught fairly early in age.
It’s no longer about keeping up with the Kumars, it’s about beating them convincingly. It’s about golf, wine, spas and diamonds. It’s about International Schools, Hotel Hospitals, Rs crores flats, a separate floor for helps, eating only out, a car for every household member, and 24x7 facilities – water for rain dances, and power on tap. Honesty, thrift, education, the outdoors - as also reading…is little appreciated. Health and food are not seen as inter-linked. Our values today are showing up in corruption even in the last bastions – the private sector, the armed forces and the courts – at all levels.
Our ‘guilt’ sometimes makes us act ‘charitably’ – after all our money, which makes the world go round, must surely solve everything for us. So charity becomes a sophisticated form of the temple visits and yajnas and ‘daan’ undertaken traditionally by some businessmen – while ‘business as usual’ continues through the year. Our arrogance tells us that we have solutions for everything – though only in words, not in deeds; and even then those are top of the head solutions only. We are sure that Kejriwal will fail - in politics, and in trying to uproot corruption. If only he would listen to us – though we always seem to know after the fact only. We even could have told Anna how to get the Lokpal Bill passed. We have all the answers, but it’s just that we have no inclination or time for politics. We also know well that we won’t be asked or required to walk our talk.
We choose to live cocooned in palaces, thinking we’ve finally made it. Our children do not know the neighbourhood, forget the City or State – or India.
We are like ostriches, burying our heads in our cocoons whenever there is a problem – trusting and praying that it will go/blow away on its own - soon. We have developed the art of fooling ourselves all the time…
We’re the first middle class post Independence to make it to the upper class – in droves. Maybe that is why we are all mixed up. At least the earlier upper class and rich were very clear about their values – or lack of them. We believe, or at least wish to, that we have not really changed much – we pretend that we still have ‘old’ values. Maybe we have not really changed; maybe we were the disguised ‘khaki sahibs’ to the brown ones – feeling superior mainly on the basis of our command over English. We have turned out to be the big hypocrites.
While the world out there is becoming increasingly connected, and hopefully class-less, it is not yet not open to all. The class divide will not go away easy – even virtually.
India was where the mind was without fear and the head held high…unfortunately, we are yet to awake…to that.
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